In recalling the early professional men of Bremer county the names of Doctors Oscar Burbank and D. M. Cool are first in Waverly, and J. M. Peebles in Janesville.

The honor of being the first person in Bremer county to make a business of healing and ministering to the sick, belongs to Elizabeth Martin. She was familiarly called Aunt Betsey Martin. She came to the county with her husband, the Rev. C. N. Martin, in 1850, and settled on Section 13, Township 91, which is about three miles , south of Waverly and is where S. I. Pool now lives. Her practice extended over all of the western part of the county. She treated her patients with homeopathic medicines and herbs, and she was quite successful in her work. She answered the call of distress in all kinds of weather. Alone and on horseback she faced the worst storms or the howling blizzard in the effort to reach and care for the sick. If the sick person happened to be the woman of the house and there was no other help, she would remain and take charge of the housework. She was indeed a friend of those in distress but disliked pretense or nervousness. (In those days it was called "hypo.") A good story is' told of her treatment of one of those cases. She was called to visit a family who lived on what is now the farm of Henry Thies, and found the woman of the house in bed, lamenting and groaning and apparently quite sick. Aunt Betsey stayed for several days and in addition to treating the patient, took charge of the housework. The doctor finally determined that there was nothing really the matter with her patient except want of energy. The farmer had no well but depended on getting his supply of water from the nearby creek. One morning, on returning from the creek with a pail of water, Aunt Betsey found her patient "taking on" at a great rate and being entirely out of patience, she threw the pail of ice cold water over her patient, hustled out and saddled her horse and went home. The effect on the patient was most miraculous. She jumped out of bed and most roundly berated the doctor, and from that time was pretty well cured of her habit.

My belief is Dr. Burkank was the first regular physician to enter the practice, and he continued in his profession until his death. He was a physician of much more than average ability and thoroly devoted to his calling. He kept read up in the progress of medicine and surgery, until he was really in senility because of old age. He loved his profession and cared more for the success of his work than for the pay that was in it. His love of stories and his naturally cheery disposition were as sunshine among his patients. It was pretty hard for one to be sick if Doc was about, for he would talk about everything but the sickness of his ward. He was naturally waggish, and to that nature he added all he could by effort or put-on levity. He could always discover something mirthful, even in the presence of desperate cases of sickness. Some people classed him as heartless when he was treating a patient, but the fact was he was tender and gentle in his real self.

Dr. Cool was the next doctor to locate in Waverly, and he soon won a large practice, because of his ability and skill as a doctor, and his gentle and sympathetic manner in the sick room. When the Civil War broke out, he went to the front as assistant surgeon of the 3rd Iowa Infantry. At the close of his service in the army, he returned home and soon afterward removed to Faribault, Minn., where he died a good many years ago.

The third doctor to locate in Waverly was Samuel Jones, who was well along in years when he arrived. He opened up a drug store, which he kept until his death, several years later. His practice was confined largely to people who consulted him at his place of business. He was a polite and courteous old-fashioned gentleman, who was respected and admired by all who knew him for his excellent traits of character.

About 1861 Dr. J. C. Pomeroy came from Vermont after his graduation. He was an athlete in stature and a giant intellectually. If there is such a thing as a "natural-born" doctor, he was in that class. By looking at a sick person, he seemed intuitively to know what the affliction was. He was so thoroly able that people did not give him credit for being interested in his cases, when the fact was that he knew whether or not danger lurked about his patients.

Dr. William Boys and Dr. J. G. Smith, both young men and thoroly equipped with knowledge and experience in hospital work in the east, located in Waverly soon after the close of the war and for some years were in active practice, but subsequently removed to other parts.

The pioneer ministers were Rev. John Buckmaster, who located in the county in the early fifties and opened up a farm north of Waverly and lived there some six or seven years. He belonged to the United Brethren church and gave much of his time to preaching to the pioneers in their homes, for there were no school houses in the country or any other places for public assemblies. In order to have church services the settlers opened their homes for such use. Buckmaster was an uneducated man, but zealous in his faith and often delivered sermons of instruction and edification. He was distinctly an evangelist rather than a pastor. As the tide of immigration drifted west, Buckmaster went with it. Where he located I never knew.

Another pioneer minister was Elder Terry, who located in Polk township and spent his life there. He was an educated and godly man, who gave the best of his life to the gospel ministry. %{e preached without the expectation of a salary, and, I guess, he was never disappointed by getting one. He ras a Baptist in faith and had much to' do in establishing the Baptist church in Waverly. When the church failed to have a pastor, Elder Terry was requisitioned and always responded. He preached in, pioneer homes, and when school houses were built he preached in them, and in the summer time in groves—always to good-sized and attentive audiences. He was a sound, logical and able preacher, made no pretenses to oratory, but gave the people the best he could in teaching practical Christianity. His work ended a good many years ago, but his impress lives today.

Rev. James Skillen, of whom I have spoken in other letters, was another pioneer preacher, unlearned but very earnest and zealous in his Master's work.

I don't know who preached the first sermon in Waverly, but believe he was a Methodist. Rev. John Gould was the first preacher I heard in the town. He was a presiding elder, a man of much ability, dignified and reticent in manner, but a genial and companionable man when one got to know him. He was a strong and popular preacher.

In April, 1859, Elder H. H. Burlington located in the town and was pastor of the Baptist church for a long time. He was a finely educated man and a graduate of a theological college in the east. He was a systematic and sound preacher of much more than average ability, and no man was more respected than he.

After years of service for his church he was 'elected 'county superintendent of schools and had much to do in raising the grade of the public schools of the county. Still later he turned his attention to a farm he owned northeast of town, in which work he took great pleasure.

Another pioneer preacher was C. M. Sessions, who was the pastor of the Methodist church when the congregation worshipped in the court house. He was followed by Rev. F. X. Miller. It was during his pastorate that the erection of the present church began.

The Baptists built the first meeting house in the town, upon the lot on which the Fourth ward school house now stands, and it was used a good many years for services.

Last updated 4/9/16
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Bremer County, Iowa
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Pioneer Days of Bremer County -- Chapter I